What I will accomplish for you – as your School Board Member

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I have spent the past 16 years of my life working predominantly as a teacher. Besides spending my time teaching, I have worked extensively working with the County and the State as part of committees to advance the opportunities for teachers and students. Alongside this experience I have also been an elected City Commissioner in Winter Springs working to find a balance for the citizens and the business community. These experiences have taught me that there needs to be a change of focus within our educational system as a whole. I believe strongly that Seminole County can be the school system that changes for the future and with that will be able to bring about positive changes for our community.
The following are 3 key aspects to my agenda – which help explain what I believe is important for our future success.

Career and Technical Education

The current model in education is that every student attends college and therefore the job of the school is to teach and prepare every student for success at the collegiate level. The environment for college is not one that is viable for everyone. Historically speaking, 33% of our population maintained a college degree of some form, and for a period of time this was seen as a problem, so we changed the path for success: college or bust. The issue today is that the portion for college or bust is an expensive situation. We need a modern workforce capable of working with their skills, not just their minds. My number one focus as a school board member will be to work with our schools, business partners, along with State and Federal programs to create the ultimate career and technical environment. For our students who may desire an option other than college, or may want to find a path toward a career prior to college, then we need to develop programs that are necessary. From a vocational process, we can bring back welding, automotive, carpentry, plumbing and more, while including more modern programs such as modeling, simulation, engineering, solar energy, nursing, digital design and beyond. The opportunities in creating this type of center means we will have an unlimited ability to grow within our educational and business communities.

When students begin these programs in their early school years, they will be better prepared to get licensure upon leaving high school and begin their careers making real money, without having to incur the debts that are burdening so many of our current population.

College and career education can co-exist so that every student has the possibility to achieve to their maximum potential, which should be the goal of the school house. We will continue to offer every opportunity to students who are college bound. This focus is not to diminish these students, rather to enhance the opportunities of the students who are in need of a different academic focus. We have adapted to the needs of our students and now it is time we do so again. My goal is to bring forward a modern approach for education with my experience of bringing together the stakeholders who have the ability to do so.

Finance:

The school budget is extensive and has many avenues in which the people’s money is being used for programs that may be excessive and or not necessary. My experience with budgets will allow me to find opportunities in which the monies that are currently used for excess will be moved to the classroom so that students will have more access to the tools necessary for their success.

The Seminole County Schools budget is extensive and many of the programs are specifically funded, yet where opportunities for the excess monies can be spent, my focus will be to save monies for career and technical advancements, advancements for modern 21st century skills as well as foundational needs that have been removed from the classroom.

When it comes to funding for the students, the schools and the whole educational process, the focus should be on how we best help our students. There is a budgetary process, which I have the experience of being part of, yet this time I will have an ability to say yes or no to each line item.

There is no need to raise taxes and or to cause fear for the people when utilizing the budget appropriately and truly focusing on the needs of the students and their success.

School Zoning

Growing up as part of a community is one of the most important aspects of who we are to become. When entering school, we should be able to attend school with the people who are part of our community, and be able to go through schooling all the way with the same community members. Considering community zoning, an area of focus for me would be to review all of the current zoning for schools and work to build toward a community (common sense) zoning. This will mean reviewing all levels of schooling in Seminole County and working to balance school zones so they are closer to homes and more community balanced. Students will have the opportunity to go from Elementary School through high school with peers. We currently have too many avenues for schooling that are lottery based and/or extremely far from communities to the extent that we have become a disjointed county. Refocusing on community can help to bring back our focus and with that be able to know what each community needs, rather than trying to find a solution across the board.

Each parent may have a story of how they were rezoned and that means life restarted for them and their child. This is not acceptable. The reason for rezoning is stated as a balancing of the schools, which means to me we can build up in the schools to solve this problem and we can find other means to maintain community zoning.

I am aware of a Department of Justice ruling which the district currently holds onto for their zoning policies, which I am more than ready to fight, so that we can find a way to create community zoning. There is a psychology of positivity when students can be part of the school, part of the community and grow together, so that the village of education can work for the years necessary, rather than just what we currently have, which is hurting community in the long run.

There are other areas of concern which I will write about in another post in the near future. For now I would appreciate your feedback to what are my researched ideas up to this point. Thank you all for being part of the solution moving forward.

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Why I am Running for School Board

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There comes a time in every parent’s life that they realize that their child is going to be the future, and that means taking the time necessary to prepare that child. As an educator I have had the opportunity to have more than 3000 students that I have worked with and to prepare for their future. I am running for the position of School Board in Seminole County because I believe we need to refocus ourselves as a county for the future. I feel strongly that we have a need to overhaul our career and technical programs that have not truly joined us in the 21st century. I am a person who has an ear toward the best practices within education as well as the needs of our business community. At this time and for the foreseeable future, we are in need of high school graduates that are either college bound or career bound. A role I want to play from the position of School Board member is to create these opportunities so that we can become the county everyone wants to copy for our future minded focus.

When it comes to the environment of education, I want to utilize my experience as a parent, teacher and community leader to bring community back to the schools. I feel that right now, we have created situations in which the school house is a place for some students, yet most students are not part of the school community. I believe that we have a need to bring about a cultural change to the schools, so that the majority of students want to be in our schools, are learning while at our schools and desire to participate in after school activities. Education is not a one path system and so I want to bring about opportunities so that students have differing avenues toward success.

I began my career as a teacher in 2002 and have been able to watch the evolution of education change course in many ways. Over the last several years I have felt that there needs to be a more positive direction within the educational environment, yet, what I have witnessed is an environment that is demoralizing students, teachers and in some situations communities.  I believe that my knowledge of Seminole County and its approach to success is something I am able to bring to the school board. For students moving ahead in schooling, I desire to bring forth opportunities. The business environment is hungry for your students to become part of their workforce; which is an aspect of the career and technical (vocational) training I would like to expand extensively. We should be including the businesses in our conversations and have them become part of the students’ lives more and more. I believe that we can involve students with Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, Leadership programs and internships, so that upon graduating students already have an idea of what is needed for success.

There are areas of success that have begun with Seminole County Schools and I want to continue to push an agenda for our children so their success is priority. To do this I want to find a way for students to have a more focused curriculum, with less testing and more opportunities. I have spent my career dedicated to the mission of education and what I am seeing now is burnt out students who have lost the passion for learning and barely have a desire to move onto the next level. There are models of education which offer students opportunities beyond just text books, beyond just presentations and beyond just lectures; it is these differing paths to success which I bring to the table.

I plan with work extensively for all students, to find a path to their success, to find their passion and after having completed their education within Seminole County Schools, to move onto the next level prepared, knowing and passionate for what life will be like.

Why am I running – because our future depends on leaders who are willing to take a stand and do the right thing, not just continue to do the same thing we have always done, in the hopes it still works. The future is now, and I am running so that Seminole County Schools can have a leader who is willing to bring the future to us.

Politics of Testing in Education

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Education has become more embattled in the past twenty years than I believe it was for the entire century prior. As the tide began to turn and politicians realized that by taking politics to education it can relate to votes, they have attacked education to such an extent that what we now see in a classroom is not teaching, barely learning and definitely not what we want for the future.

Education is an area in which parents’ desire for their child to be better than they were prior to them. The system of education is meant to guide a student to become better than that parent and in so doing create a better life for that child than the parent had. This system makes sense when it is allowed to work properly, yet what has occurred through political engineering and social pressure has become an environment of coddling.

Since the creation of the “No Child Left Behind” program in 2001 the ideology for education has been far more political than it was for the previous 4 decades. The political spectrum created an environment which blamed the teachers and the schools for every problem, and so they worked hard to create a testing environment which was going to prove that every child can become the same. The results of this model has not proven accurate, as the product being created is not truly measurable. The tests do not show what a young person can truly do and or how they think, operate or desire, it is just simply data points to say that a child has achieved a level of success. The motivation and enjoyment of experience is removed for the effort of a test.  The youth of today may seem like they are prepared to do better than their parents, yet the system is not showing itself to be pure, rather all we know is what a test is measuring, which does not allocate a holistic experience, just a targeted ability to bubble in tests. The results have not garnered smarter people or even better people, and after almost 2 decades of testing what we are showing is that critical thinking and ability has diminished extensively.

As the political climate has grown extensively by adding more testing and additional data points, districts afraid of losing funding have complied and have allocated resources to testing. This mindset has become a society of data points who are very good at bubbling in an answer as designed by a test, yet have a lack of common sense, critical thinking and ability to question what is going on. This is not a good characteristic for our future, and even worse, may guide us to a more automated future – which is great for technology, yet what do we do with people who have few or no skillsets beyond test bubbling?

In this same conversation is the reality of what this means for our future. Employers are not looking for data points or test bubblers, they need thinkers, workers and well-rounded people, so that they can advance their business. The current schooling environment is not creating a truly well rounded person and that is a problem for the future. For almost a decade the blame for this has been the teacher’s fault, additional blame has been on the school environment itself and finally if/when the conversation can, the blame is guided to the environment of public schools. The reality is that this has nothing to do with the teachers or the school environment, it has more to do with society as a whole and the world of politics. The politics of finding votes and making voters align with political ideology has been successful as a public relations opportunity, yet what has occurred within the walls of education is to unravel what was successful in the hopes of everyone being the same in the end. There is a reality in which some students are more successful than others, which continues to be shown through testing; yet what is not able to be seen is that without teaching skills necessary beyond testing we are now slowing down the process of adolescents to the point that 30 year olds are just becoming mature enough for the market place. This is a sad reality that we have created, and one in which we need to consider as we scale back to teaching beyond tests.

When considering how to be a successful school or a funded school, the reliability is on the test results, so the system is working to find ways to be test reliant. An example of such is when school administrators guide their faculty to give a grade of 50% to students for assignments not completed so that these students don’t fall too far behind. The conversation surrounding this is that once a student falls behind they never catch up, which may be part of the truth, yet it also leaves that student ahead of the game for no good reason, and also allows them to learn a system of coddling. This systems creates a false sense of reality for students who then learn how to take advantage of it. Another example is when schools tell teachers to stop teaching novels and or writing research papers, and instead prepare to pass bubbling tests, which may show up as a quality student, yet their future is limited due to a lack of effort in the formative phases of learning. This system is so pervasive that as a culture, America is going to continue to find its educational system falling behind their counterparts around the world. We continue to blame teachers, when in reality we should be blaming the people who are focused on testing and the results of the testing. The politicians are holding onto a belief that the tests show them how students are improving, because of the testing, yet the reality is there is only one way to improve knowledge, that is to study, focus and practice consistently over time. This means that the rigor of courses need to be met by the students, and not just bubbled in from a test, which is then graded by a bell curve model.

America needs to get back to being honest. If, as a nation we truly want to be honest with our families and students then we need to do it from the ground up. Education needs to be a place in which we, as a society guide and utilize tools for success, and use those tools within the classroom and technology to develop our future. In society, there is a need for everyone to have a role, and some of those people will be lawyers while others will be welders. There is a place for everyone, even though at this time we do not guide this process in the schools, rather we just blame teachers for not finding a way for every child to become a college graduate who will be an engineer or a lawyer. The push from politicians and leaders to force students toward success through bubbling tests does not allocate a truth of success. To do this, we need to lead by focusing on what is truly going on. When a student is not doing their work, then their grades equal that result. When a teacher is not creating enough rigor to push the students then we work with that teacher to become better or they leave the profession. The society of today needs to consider that the past was not as bad as we thought it was and that technology is not as amazing as it seems to be. The reality of education is effort, effortful processing and rigor. This means that we find ways for students to learn through creating an environment of hard work, effortful learning and if we have to test, we do so at a national level to compare students, while we allow teachers to truly help in evaluation of students. Not every student is perfect, not every student is college bound and not every student will be a lawyer, yet every student can reach their potential if there is an environment for it. Stop the over testing and bring back the learning.

 

 

It is not Vouchers – its Accountability

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In the Orlando newspaper there is discussion over the mechanism to bolster private schools through various state devised scholarships and or vouchers.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-florida-school-voucher-investigation-1018-htmlstory.html

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-florida-school-vouchers-journalism-scott-maxwell-20171019-story.html

For many years I have fought openly against these types of schemes for their whole system is designed to grow private education at the detriment of public education systems. My issue is always accountability.

Why would politicians need to create a system of vouchers is a question that many should be asking. If the answer was as simple as we are told – the private schools offer an accountable system which is not occurring within the public schools. Unfortunately this is an outright lie.

Politicians continue to double down on vouchers, charter schools and other mechanisms without accountability while forcing more accountability on private schools.

The argument for vouchers and charters continues to be choice – and people who are pushed to believe that public schools offer no choice send their child to one of these politically designed schools. Whenever a charter is created it’s the rules of that environment and for the most part all voucher and charter schools are Charter based in their development – which means they are not held to any rules of accountability at the state level.

Hiring practices are ignored, certifications are ignored and quite frankly, caring for the kids is generally ignored as well.

So when this system comes under attack, the idea of being wrong brings upon further attack. Recently I was reading where State politicians stated that psychology has openly guided people to know that learning styles mean offering children carious avenues to learn. The problem with this statement is that psychology does not concur with learning styles, rather the psychological research says the exact opposite of what the politicians are hoping people to believe. Then there is the whole argument that every child deserves a unique education, yet this is what public school offers through rules created at a Federal level, whereas in private education this is not mandated.

The general public is not aware of the politics that is occurring behind the scenes for each of these gifts that are given out through political channels. Education in America is very much a political animal as the money allocated through it is excessive, yet, at each turn politicians should not be the ones making the educational decisions. When considering the value of a voucher, when sending a child to a different school, the child should be seen as improving, yet this rarely happens, rather the voucher sends the child to a for profit education center, where the motivation is profit, not teaching or learning.

The press has continued to write articles against the abuse of this educational system, yet for whatever reason the politicians continue to push it and the people continue to believe in it. So in reviewing documents, articles, research and more, I am at a loss for understanding.

Whether the argument is charter schools, vouchers, stem programs, technology focused etc, the result is always the same, for profit programs focus on dollar signs instead of effortful processing, which is what is necessary for learning.

At the time that vouchers and charter schools came to be, the international body for measuring student knowledge and success placed the United States in the middle of the pack and or near the bottom of the list for education. Rather than find a system in which the United States could assess itself as a nation, the political machine has argued that the reason for this is that public schools are failing students, and that only a strong, moral and or religious education is the key to success. The reality of this argument remains inconsistent, in that countries which have a national standard and have a path toward national success tend to have better educators, more connected schools and more involved students. The United States has some amazing students who are the cream of the crop and move up toward equality with the rest of the world, yet where it fails is that after this top 20%, the rest are far below.

The issue is not that we need charter schools or private schools, we need one standard of expectation that everyone can attain. There was an attempt to make this happen, yet the political machine did not like that there was a possibility curriculum would be instituted against the philosophy of each state, so they began to fight a system they created. The result was that the nation of education went back to State driven mandates for public schools and find an avenue for profit so that education can remain a business; while allowing for profit centers to be created without accountability. The result continues to be a for profit model in which the kids are not the product, rather they are widget leading to profit. To combat this, we need to deconstruct this focus on vouchers and charter schools and move the resources back to a model of accountability.

I do fully understand the concept of choice, yet I cannot accept it without the primary argument of equity for all within the classroom and a structure of accountability for all around the nation. Use the monies collected for education through taxes for a public education and the monies paid for by families desiring private education to be private, yet either way, the Nation and the State needs to be on the same page for accountability and content. To measure all of this we have a national test which the students take each year to see where they are at. Finally if a school is accepting of public money then it no longer can carry the label private, and it is held to all the same rules as all other public schools, then the issues of accountability are taken care of, and the standard of care for each child will be monitored.

The Mental Health State of the Orlando Shootings

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The following is my analysis of the recent shootings in Orlando:

Orlando has certainly been in the news over the past 2 weeks. For me, the experience was more than surreal as it is the area I call home, yet I was not home at the time of the events. I was away working which allowed for me to have a differing perspective.

I awoke on Saturday morning to the news sharing that a singer -Christina Grimmie – had been shot while signing autographs. This was an awful story to read and certainly one that made me wonder what was going on with the world. It is scary enough to think that people have such access to a weapon that can destroy with very little effort (I know the 2nd amendment for those that are irked already); yet to once again read a story of someone with this much anger using such a weapon to remove a life from this earth just because they felt it was ok to do is maddening.

In respect to this young lady (Christina Grimmie) your light was exterminated many years before your time, yet, it would seem that another man had anger in his mind, as he arrived the same night of your death at another nightclub to destroy as many people as he could with a different gun. This particular event shares with Orlando and the rest of the country how fragile the laws are in relation to guns and mental health.

As stated above, in both of these situations, the victims were shot with a gun. Christina Grimmie died at the hands of a man who shot her then after a scuffle turned the gun on himself. Perhaps there was a mental state within the shooter that was of pure anger or it may just simply have been what we have learned that he was infatuated with her and expected her to respond in kind. A similar story occurred like this when a shooter (John Hinkley) sought the attention of an actress and shot President Reagan. The country rallied at that time and came to the conclusion that there may be a need for gun control and even created a cooling off period. This makes sense in cases where people get into an argument, yet there is no system that is out there to help people in the mental health world.

A few hours later, a man who had the desire of destruction in his mind and heart choose to use guns to destroy the lives of 49 people and wound many others. As the story unfolded from my location, which was not in Orlando, the feeling was surreal. I live close enough to the location of this mass shooting, yet being far away on the day of and even through a week later, I have time to sit back and allow my inner anger to subside while my heart comes to terms with what is going on.

Information on the shooter has come out that he was a problem child in school, being suspended often. He had problems as an adult not being able to truly connect with any specific group. His wife stated he had anger issues, the club he visited recalls him looking toward men for attention. His desire for guns and the use of them calmed him enough to enjoy the violence of possibility. Any of these situations are now being called red flags, yet as a nation none of them really are. He began to acknowledge his connection to ISIS, yet his family and friends state he was not really religious and none of the terrorist networks knew of him. None of this to me says the man is a terrorist for Islam or for ISIS. Rather he is a lone individual who has a mental state which split.
I believe strongly that the discussion of mental health is not discussed enough when it comes to the honest situation of any of these circumstances. Orlando is working on the process of healing from a mentally unhealthy individual who choose to use the tactic of terror to destroy lives. I believe that the death of Chritina Grimmie falls into the same category.
The city of Orlando has rallied hard to come together and to find a meaning behind this shooting. The press jumped to terrorism because it is easy. The truth to me is that it is not easy, this is a mental health shooting which does not have red flags since we as a society do not accept the review of anger or discipline problems as mental health issues. We do not fund the option for working on mental health issues and we do not focus any attention toward this problem. Orlando is not the first shooting situation in our nation, rather this particular shooting targeted a nightclub. The situation of it being a gay nightclub may have played a factor in the shooters mental state, yet there is no difference in the loss of life, people are still dead because a person with a state of mind other than healthy made this choice. This is no different than the choice of a school or a movie theater, it is a location for which a person who showed many signs of mental health deficiency choose to create harm.

The understanding of this choice is not common, yet it is understood in the research components of psychology. Discussing banning guns for people with mental health will not remove the issues we face today, for the people we want the guns taken away from do not always show issues and or do have ways to find guns. Creating a system whereupon a person with red flags is sent to a counselor to work on their issues sounds like a great idea, yet it slaps the constitution so loudly that the ACLU would not allow it and the politicians would never fund it.

This means, that within the community, we will all bond together, the same as we did for 9/11, Sandy Hook, Columbine and even Denver, yet the ultimate reality is nothing will change. The press will continue to vilify this as an act of terror to sell ratings, and the people of the city will hold onto every word that is said as gospel.

For me, this is the saddest part of the story. Until we are willing as a society to realize that within every community lies many ticking issues that with counseling can be helped, stories such as these will continue.

If you are around people who may have anger issues or maybe showing signs of wanting to target a specific group, ask them to get help. There are support groups out there, yet ranting about one person for what they did in the name of religion or sexual preference is the final step. There are many steps prior to this that can help solve the problem.